House of Commons Hansard #208 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.


Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I thank the hon. member for St. Albert. His comment is already on the table. I thanked him once for his advice, but I will thank him again.

We will now proceed directly to Private Members' Business.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

April 15th, 1999 / 5:35 p.m.


Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved that Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to lead the debate on Bill C-484. The purpose of my private member's bill is to amend the Criminal Code so that any individual who uses a firearm in the commission of certain criminal offences will receive an additional sentence of incarceration, that being a consecutive sentence.

The bill is referred to as the 10-20-life law, so the consecutive sentences that I refer to would be 10 years if a firearm is used in the commission of one of the named offences that I will list shortly; 20 years if in the commission of that offence the firearm is discharged; and a life sentence to be added consecutively to the sentence that the individual receives for the crime they commit if the discharge of that firearm causes bodily harm to anyone other than the perpetrator of the crime or an accomplice.

The list of the specific criminal offences to which this 10-20- life law would apply are the following: murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion.

Currently section 85 of the Criminal Code provides for a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 14 years for the commission of an indictable offence. In the case of a second offence, a minimum of three years and a maximum of 14 years applies.

Those sentences referred to in section 85 currently are to be served consecutively. That is the current law, but these provisions apply to all indictable offences, including the ones I listed. The significance is that the most violent offences are treated the same as all other indictable offences. My bill lists the most serious violent crimes and subjects them to the provisions of the 10-20-life law.

In other jurisdictions similar laws are being passed. Most notably, in 1997 the governor of California signed into law an act amending California's state penal code to include a 10-20-life provision. Prior to that time there existed a similar section of the California penal code which meted out three, four or ten years for felony offences. It was actually four, five or ten years in the case of carjacking, and five, six or ten years if the firearm used was classified as an assault weapon.

The significance is that the changes which were made in 1997 in California were in response to the success the law had in deterring carjacking within that state. Carjackers knew they would be subject to very stiff consecutive sentences for the specific act of carjacking, which was a strong deterrent and the number of carjackings dropped substantially.

I would submit to the House that the same principle applies, as it clearly does, to the 10-20-life law. Criminals should know that the use of a firearm will automatically add 10 years to the sentence for the commission of one of these serious offences. The discharge of that firearm in the commission of an offence will automatically result in a consecutive sentence applied to their original sentence for the commission of that crime, of 20 years, and if the discharge of that firearm causes someone bodily harm they will be the recipient of an additional life sentence to the original sentence for the crime they committed.

I do not want to become mired down in a lot of statistics, but there are a couple of relevant statistics I would like to quote.

Between 1991 and 1995 half of all homicides in Canada involved the use of a handgun. That number is 75% when looking only at Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto.

In 1995, 33% of violent crimes committed with a firearm resulted in the victim being injured. In the case of assault or sexual assault, the percentage of incidents in which the victim was injured was over 50%.

Since 1934 in Canada we have had a handgun registry. It has been a requirement that legally owned handguns be registered. We can safely deduce from the statistics I have quoted that the handgun registry has been an abject failure. It has not acted as a deterrent to the criminal use of those handguns in any way, shape or form. That is a very important point because what we need to understand and what the Liberal government fails to understand is that it is not the registration of a firearm that deters criminal use, but rather the resulting consequence of using that firearm to commit a serious violent crime.

In keeping with Reform Party policies and principles, we seek to not target law-abiding firearms owners but the criminal use of firearms. I have drafted this bill with the intent for it to serve as a deterrent to the criminal use of a firearm. There are three main points I would like the Liberal government to understand.

The first point is that unlike firearm registration this 10-20 life law does target the criminal element within our society. It targets those who use firearms in the commission of an offence against another person. That will have the effect of a deterrent, contrary to what the registration of firearms would do. We need look only as far as the handgun registry to see that.

The second point is the harsher sentencing provisions, not firearms registration, but harsher sentences acting as a deterrent to the criminal use of firearms.

The third point is this law would serve the purpose of highlighting that using a firearm to commit a violent crime is abhorrent to society. It is the will of Canadians that stronger punitive sanctions be attached to those sections of the Criminal Code.

I was very disappointed that the subcommittee which dealt with my private member's bill did not deem it to be votable. For the reasons I have just explained to the House, the obvious benefit that a 10-20 life law would have in tightening the provisions of the Criminal Code and therefore making our communities safer, our society safer and establishing a clear understanding in society that the criminal use of a firearm will not be tolerated and that severe penalties will result, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to deem my private member's bill votable.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is very unfortunate for many reasons.

The Liberal government is refusing to enact legislation that will make our streets, our communities, our society a safer place and which will send a message to the criminal element that using firearms to commit serious crimes is not something we are prepared to tolerate in our society.

The Liberals should not care that it is a Reform member who introduced the bill. I do not think that is relevant. They should look at the issue and understand the facts and say this is a good idea.

Why are they refusing to allow this bill to be votable? Are they ashamed that their own justice minister did not think of it? Or are they ashamed that their own justice minister refuses to get tough on crime and instead engages in namby-pamby bills such as the young offenders amendments that we were speaking about today in the House? The changes to the Young Offenders Act are merely a paint job on the old act but will still do nothing to target the deficiencies in that act.

Or is their reason because they are obsessed with alienating Canadians? On Tuesday we debated in the House all day the alienation of the regions in the country. I spoke on behalf of the residents of Saskatchewan and I spoke about the Liberal alienation committee.

Here we have yet another example of alienation. A member from Saskatoon, myself, has introduced a get tough on crime bill in the House. It is a law that would improve our society by getting tougher on criminals who use firearms instead of targeting the law-abiding citizens like the Liberals are so intent on doing with former Bill C-68, the firearms registration act. They do not allow the committee to deem it a votable item and they do not even allow me the consent in the House.

For the benefit of Canadians watching, the significance of that is at the end of this hour, debate on this bill will collapse and that will be the end of it. They will not have to vote on it. That is probably another reason that they refuse to allow this to be deemed a votable bill. They do not want to stand up and let Canadians from coast to coast watch them vote against a bill which targets the criminal use of firearms. They seem to be intent on firearms registration, targeting law-abiding firearms owners.

Today we spent the day in the House of Commons debating some very flimsy changes to the Young Offenders Act. Why is the Liberal justice minister so preoccupied with bringing useless legislation before the House instead of meaningful legislation like the 10-20 life law? Why does she not introduce bills like that?

Instead of tinkering with the Young Offenders Act, why does she not introduce a victims bill of rights? Why does she not establish that the rights of victims supersede any rights that a criminal has? I will answer that question. It is because the Liberal soft approach to crime is something they are obsessed with and they refuse to let it go.

Canadians will not get proper legislation dealing with criminals and fair legislation dealing with private ownership of firearms until we have a Reform government.

Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we recognize the next speaker, I undertook earlier to return to the question of privilege by the member for Mississauga West.

As members may have seen, I had the privilege of speaking to all of the members involved.

I want to state unequivocally how important it is that we treat each other respectfully at all times and that no member at any time feel threatened physically or emotionally. This is the centre of our governance, of our civility as a nation. We have a fiduciary duty to comport ourselves in a manner that brings credit to each other, to this institution and to ourselves. As the chair occupant, I want it understood clearly that there will not be any actions by any member that bring discredit on this House, which is bigger than all of us. What this institution represents is bigger than all of us.

I have considered carefully the interventions given by everyone, including the hon. member for St. Albert. I thank all members for giving me their advice.

We are not going to take it any further because it has gone as far as it needs to go. We are considering, by consensus, the matter closed and we will speak no more of this particular instance.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code (consecutive sentence for use of firearm in commission of offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


John McKay Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I compliment you on your ruling.

Usually on Private Members' Business I compliment the members for their initiative and hard work. I think it reflects well on all of us for members to bring forward legislation and ideas that need to be debated and considered by the House, ideas that do not necessarily originate with the government.

Usually I start out that way, but in this particular instance, I believe this bill is just a waste of House time. This is simply a bill which adds nothing to the debate and in fact is counterproductive to many of the initiatives already undertaken by the government.

To say that I oppose this bill is to be minimalist in the matter. The bill proposes that there be more severe minimum sentences to be served consecutively for 10 serious crimes all committed with firearms, but by the same token that we ignore a judicial and statutory foundation for our sentencing system.

I urge all hon. members to refer to section 718 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the principles of sentencing, before they get too far down the path which this bill is taking us.

In January 1996 the government implemented tough new penalties for firearm related offences. New sections have been added, provided that when a person is convicted of having committed certain serious offences with a firearm, a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison is now imposed. The 10 violent provisions are: criminal negligence causing death; manslaughter; attempted murder; causing bodily harm with intent; sexual assault with a weapon; aggravated sexual assault; kidnapping; hostage taking; robbery; and extortion.

In other words, people get four years minimum regardless. In some respects it is a fettering of judicial discretion. On this side of the House, we think that is an appropriate fettering of judicial discretion.

We are satisfied that these new gun control measures are having a positive effect in reducing the criminal use of firearms and frankly see no need to amend the sentencing provisions at this time.

There are several difficulties with Bill C-484 and I would like to address them now.

By imposing severe minimum sentences, Bill C-484 does not account for the fact that the criminal justice system judges have discretion. That is fundamental to our system of law in this country. They have discretion in sentencing convicted offenders in order that the sentence may be tailored, and I emphasize tailored, to the individual, taking into account the criminal record and any other aggravating or extenuating circumstances.

I would like to draw attention to section 718 which sets out the purpose and principles of sentencing:

The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:

(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;

(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;

(c) to separate offenders from society;

(d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders;

(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims; and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders.

That is the purpose of our criminal justice system. It is a very articulate piece of legislation.

Under the section with respect to the other sentencing principles, a court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles and it goes on to talk about aggravating circumstances. But in the deemed aggravating circumstances section, subsection (c), it says “where consecutive sentences are imposed, the combined sentence should not be unduly long or harsh”.

That is the essence of the flaw with this bill. If they are all added up, offenders will be serving 10 years past a life sentence. It is a bit of an absurdity. This absurdity would lead to further absurdities.

It interferes with what in sentencing principles is called the totality principle, when a sentencing judge orders an offender to serve consecutive sentences, and this is lost on some hon. members opposite. The Criminal Code already provides for consecutive sentences. There are not simply concurrent sentences. A judge has the discretion to order a concurrent sentence. I heard endless numbers of speeches from members opposite about this issue. If a judge chooses to put in a concurrent sentence, he or she can do so, but it must meet the principle of totality.

The totality principle requires that a sentencing judge who orders an offender to serve consecutive sentences for multiple offences to ensure that the cumulative sentence does not exceed the overall culpability of the offender. The effect of the totality principle is to require the sentencer, i.e. the judge, to pass a series of sentences, each properly calculated in relation to the offence for which it is imposed and to be properly made in accordance with the principles governing sentencing principles.

In other words, there are no volume discounts. I will repeat this. There are no volume discounts. In part, that is what the bill is all about; that somehow or other, if we fetter the discretion of judges, we will arrive at a more fair judicial system, a more fair sentencing system.

May I respectfully suggest that it would be counterproductive if the bill were allowed to go to a vote. I was glad to see that hon. members had the wisdom to not make this a votable item.

The Criminal Code provides for minimum sentences in limited circumstances. This is applicable to certain serious offences and reflects society's intolerance toward more serious crimes. With a four year minimum sentence for 10 serious crimes committed with a firearm, the Criminal Code makes is clear that those convicted of such offences should at a minimum spend at least four years in a penitentiary. Judges still have discretion to impose more severe sentences for particular crimes should they deem it to be appropriate in all the circumstances.

May I say that having been in court and having listened to judges, in all the circumstances they frequently listen to literally days worth of testimony, frequently contradictory testimony, and hear argument on both sides and, I would suggest, with the greatest respect to members in the House, are in the best position to decide what is or is not the appropriate sentence.

The House gets to provide guidelines. The House gets to reflect upon the moral imperatives of sentencing. The House gets to suggest things. However, in the ultimate and final resolution of matters, I would submit that we are prepared to defer to judicial discretion in most areas.

When the government provided for this minimum sentence for these 10 serious crimes, the clear intent was to discourage individuals from using firearms. Laws have been written with the objective that in all likelihood they have to withstand constitutional challenges. I have heard time and time again from members opposite how there are charter problems, is this charterproof or this horrible charter, although we all seem to think it is okay when it works our way. When we do pass a law it does in fact have to go through the lens of the charter. That is the law under which we all live, including the House of parliament.

The bill needs to have a short and quick death. I could go on to other significant problems. I have described how 718 works and how a judge actually goes through the various issues that are appropriate to sentencing an individual. We are all subject to the rule of law and we are all subject to the constitution. They put the discretion where it belongs: with the judge.

Bill C-484 panders to the worst in all of us. It panders to our most basic emotions of fear and it purports to offer a solution which in fact it does not. We have an illusion of protection if somehow or other we add on all these sentences. It ignores many of the principles upon which our judicial system is built. I would urge all members to simply ask for the bill to die a quick and painless death.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-484, introduced by my Reform Party colleague, the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Criminal Code with respect to consecutive sentencing for the use of a firearm in the commission of an offence.

More specifically, this bill is intended to amend section 85 of the Criminal Code, as well as several other sections of the Criminal Code that I will deal with a bit later.

Section 85 currently states that:

85.(1) Every person commits an offence who uses a firearm

(a) while committing an indictable offence, other than an offence under section 220 (criminal negligence causing death), 236 (manslaughter), 239 (attempted murder), 244 (causing bodily harm with intent—firearm), 272 (sexual assault with a weapon), 273 (aggravated sexual assault), 279 (kidnapping), 279.1 (hostage-taking), 344 (robbery) or 346 (extortion),

The bill as it stands is aimed at changing section 85, with the exception of all the crimes I have just listed.

Section 85 also addresses the use of a firearm while attempting to commit an indictable offence, or during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence, and committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence or during flight after committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence using an imitation firearm, all of which are indictable offences punishable, in the case of a first offence, by imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years, with a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year.

In the case of a repeat offence, the maximum penalty is fourteen years and the minimum three years. This is what is set out in the Criminal Code at the present time. It also calls for these sentences to be served consecutive to any other sentence. The Criminal Code is already clear enough on the use of firearms in violent crimes.

So, what amendments does our Reform colleague want to introduce? First—and I am sure everyone here is rather surprised—Bill C-484 amends section 85 by increasing the sentences provided as follows: a minimum of ten years, if the firearm is not discharged; 20 years if the firearm was discharged—he missed here—and 25 years if the firearm was discharged and an individual other than anyone participating in the offence is caused bodily harm. So the change is from a maximum sentence of 14 years to a minimum of 25 years. This is no small change.

In the same breath, the member proposes that the same supplemental sentences be included in sections 235, 236, 239, 244, 272, 279.1, 344 and 346, all of which, with the exception of section 235, are excluded from the application of the existing section 85.

This is the purpose of this bill. Let us look now at its effects.

I must say right off that the phenomenon of violent crime, particularly that involving firearms, is extremely serious and distressing. However, the more repressive approach, which imposes excessive sentences, in my opinion or in the opinion of many of those involved in the area in Quebec, will not necessarily reduce crime.

Our neighbours to the south, the United States of America, have a per capita rate of incarceration that is one of the highest in the west. It is also a country where, although a large number of states have reintroduced the death penalty, the crime rate has not dropped accordingly. This shows that repressive measures are not what reduce crime.

Another very troubling feature of Bill C-484 is that, by providing for very tough minimum sentences, it reduces the discretionary power of courts to hand down sentences that take into account the circumstances under which offences were committed. It is as though suddenly judges were not allowed to exercise their judgment.

Under our criminal justice system, sentences can be adjusted to fit the crime and the person that committed it. This is described as taking into account the subjective and objective gravity of an offence. The subjective gravity has to do with the circumstances surrounding the person charged with the offence and the objective gravity has to do with identifying the extenuating or aggravating circumstances under which the offence was committed.

By substantially increasing the minimum sentences for all imaginable circumstances, the member is attempting to turn the Criminal Code into a strict set of instructions with no room for judicial discretion. This runs counter to a long-recognized principle essential to the enforcement of justice.

Another important principle is flouted here. This is the principle prohibiting multiple convictions established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Kienapple v. The Queen. Under this principle, a person may not be convicted under different sections having the same elements. A person cannot be charged twice for the same offence.

In the bill before us, this principle is set aside. For instance, convicting someone of robbery, or armed robbery, and giving them an additional ten-year minimum sentence for committing the offence with a firearm is simply ridiculous. Yet this is what the bill does by introducing the concept of dual conviction, when in fact both offences include the same essential elements flowing from the same case and the same offence.

In any democratic system, the Kienapple principle is very important. No self-respecting justice system would consider supporting such a bill.

Last, but not least, if this bill were passed, it would almost certainly violate section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms under which everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

In fact, the courts have already questioned the constitutionality of the one-year sentence now provided for in section 85 of the Criminal Code. It goes without saying that a minimum sentence of 10 years would violate section 12 and would certainly fail the reasonability test of section 1 of the Charter. This is not the first time the Reform Party has taken leave of its senses.

For all these reasons, I am unable to support the bill and, speaking for the Bloc Quebecois, I am certainly not alone.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-484, an act to amend the Criminal Code so that any individual who uses a firearm in the commission of certain criminal offences will receive an additional sentence of incarceration.

What is behind this legislation? The member for Saskatoon—Humboldt who introduced the bill made reference to old Bill C-68 with which there is a lot of concern particularly in the regions of Canada that a lot of innocent people who use firearms are being asked to jump through a lot of hoops unnecessarily and the criminal element is in a sense overlooked.

As we speak today thousands and thousands of people who perhaps would seldom use firearms for anything other than the occasional hunting trip or the occasional trip out to the shooting gallery or the gun club are being asked to go through a process in an effort to make our country a safer place.

I suppose one could make the argument that another way to approach it would be to say to people who use firearms to participate in some kind of criminal activity that we will come down extremely heavy on them. The misuse of a firearm is something we simply do not want to tolerate. We are not particularly concerned about people who use firearms for recreational purposes, for international competitions and so on. We are concerned about the people who misuse firearms.

My friend has introduced a private member's bill as a way to say to individuals that if they use firearms to participate in a crime the penalties, if found guilty, will be much more severe. That is how we could summarize this legislation.

It also suggests the whole issue of consecutive sentencing of 10, 20 or in some cases 25 years. If individuals are found guilty of committing a crime while carrying a firearm, whether it is a pistol, rifle, shotgun or whatever, 10 years would be added to their sentence.

This sends a signal to people that as a society we will not tolerate this behaviour. If individuals participate in criminal activity while carrying a firearm and the firearm is discharged not necessarily causing any harm but to shoot at a person or shoot to frighten or whatever, their sentence will be increased to 20 years after the time for the original offence has been served. If they happen to actually cause bodily harm the sentence will be increased by 25 years.

We could argue about whether these terms of 10, 20 or 25 years are appropriate. We are trying to send a very clear message to people that we do not appreciate their participating in criminal activities, but if they use a firearm to assist in carrying out a dastardly deed we will be particularly hard on them.

What are these offences? For greater certainty the sponsor of the bill has included a number of offences. I will name them because I think it is important. Murder is included as are manslaughter, attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm with intent, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage taking, robbery and extortion. All these are dastardly crimes.

As a society we have clearly said we do not tolerate robbery or kidnapping. For various reasons people participate in these activities. A whole other element is added when a firearm is carried while the crime is being conducted. This tells individuals being kidnapped or robbed that if they do not behave as the criminal wants them to, their lives will be taken. They will be maimed. They will be shot. Very serious bodily harmed will be caused. It adds another dimension to the process. It is one thing to rob a person but it is another to hold up a person with a firearm.

I like the legislation. I do not know if these are the appropriate terms. I do not know if there should be other additions to the member's list. The purpose of this debate is to move the legislation forward. If it were to move forward we would go into committee where we would hear witnesses and perhaps fine-tune the legislation. This is sort of a first draft or a first run through. For that reason I am generally in favour of the legislation.

I have tried to come to grips with the whole issue of firearm control in Canada. I know we have all been lobbied hard by representatives on both sides of the issue. I am convinced that the legislation we used to refer to as Bill C-68, the firearms control act, will not have any appreciable effect on reducing the amount of violent crime in society. It will not have much of an impact on reducing the misuse of firearms.

When we look at the deaths caused each year by firearms, very few are the result of a person actually shooting somebody. It is the result of somebody's gun going off. It is the result of a domestic dispute. It is the result of a hunting accident. We have to ask ourselves if that firearm were registered would there not still be that homicide. If you are in a domestic dispute and your firearm is registered, are you going to say that you probably should not kill that person because it is registered? You have lost control and you are probably going to misuse that firearm.

We are not talking about whether firearms should exist or not. We are talking about the whole process of Bill C-68 and the registration of firearms. Having looked at that carefully, I do not think it will be very effective.

However, will this be effective? What if we were to tell people that if they misuse a firearm while participating in a crime the penalties will be significantly increased? We would all agree that 10, 20 or 25 years in jail is a very serious penalty. I might add that is a consecutive penalty. It is added on after the first penalty. I would question whether it would act as a deterrent. I suspect it probably would. I would like to hear evidence on whether it would or would not, but I guess we will have a chance to debate that in the future.

In 1995 Statistics Canada indicated that 33% of violent crimes committed with a firearm resulted in the victim being injured. In cases involving assault and sexual assault that number rises to over 50%. We are talking about this legislation having very serious implications.

When people participate in or are involved with extortion, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and so on, it often results in bodily harm and often leads to death. It is something we have to take a lot more seriously. I would like to seek unanimous consent to have a vote on this bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent?

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gilles Bernier Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer the comments of the Progressive Conservative Party on Bill C-484. The PC Party believes in consecutive sentences to get tough on criminals. The PC Party also believes in legislation that gets tough on criminals who use firearms in the commission of an offence. The PC Party believes that by getting tough on criminals of all ages while offering and supporting meaningful programs for their rehabilitation, we can create a safe society for all Canadians.

However, we do not believe that Bill C-484 will be able to remedy all the degenerative legislation that has been enacted over the past six years by a Liberal government that is soft on crime. For example, this legislation could be rendered useless due to Liberal initiatives such as conditional sentencing.

This Liberal initiative has already been applied to rapists so why should we not believe that it would not be liberally applied to offenders falling under the auspices of Bill C-484? Conversely, we feel Bill C-484 is disproportionate to the rest of the Criminal Code in terms of the proposed sentences offered to criminals who fall under the bill.

If the government would commit to sensible gun control legislation that did not discriminate against law-abiding gun owners, and if it would follow the lead of its own MPs and commit to consecutive sentencing, the opposition parties would not feel the need to propose amendments to correct such bad legislation.

Since the Liberals came into power in 1993 they have tried to paint themselves as champions of justice and protectors of the public interest. In doing so they have promoted gun control legislation through basic, simplistic terms that played on the fears of a public fearful for its own public safety.

It is obvious now that the Reform Party too is falling victim to this Liberal image doctoring as its proposed amendments are playing right into the hands of Liberal ideals concerning gun control.

Instead of creating more negative firearms publicity through the bill, the Reform Party should be blasting the Liberals for their soft stand on crime. If the Liberals took a harder stance on issues such as youth and organized crime, if they listened to their colleagues and passed legislation on consecutive sentencing, and if they gave our police forces the proper funding needed to enforce the law, there would be no need for constant Criminal Code amendments to correct bad Liberal legislation.

Meaningful legislation would allow people to feel safe in the towns and cities of Canada. They would feel safe enough that the anti-gun lobby would not be forced to create its propaganda that also affects law-abiding gun owners in an adverse manner.

Our party supports the noble basis of Bill C-484, as it is steeped in the ideal of public safety. However, we are tempered by difficulties that this proposed legislation will encounter when confronted with existing, backward Liberal legislation. In noting this inevitable confrontation, we feel that the following problems will ensue.

First and foremost, our party has made it abundantly clear that the Liberal government has and continues to enact firearms legislation that discriminates against law-abiding gun owners. The Liberals are famous for being parochial fence-sitters that manoeuvre in the middle ground so as to avoid committing to anything that may damage their popularity. After all, the Liberals have continually proven that their objective is to support any popular cause as long as it ensures their re-election. The result is a government with no foresight and no platform other than that of doing whatever is necessary to be re-elected.

As I previously mentioned, the issue of gun control is one that was very easy for the Liberals to be seen as the champions of justice for the Canadian people. With violent images of crime being broadcast nightly into the living rooms of Canadians, the Liberals gained widespread support by saying that Canada had to get tougher gun registration laws to cut down on the availability of guns to the public. They quickly translated this tugging of Canadian heart strings into the now infamous Bill C-68, which is as disappointing as the current Bill C-68 debated today.

Neglecting the fact that this bill would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to implement and that it would take up to 233 years to register all Canadian firearms, the Liberals went ahead with the legislation championing themselves as the protectors of the Canadian public.

It is easy to see the effectiveness of the legislation now that the initial hype has been tempered by harsh reality. For example, the Liberal government that will do anything to avoid controversy has now come face to face with law-abiding gun owners who are protesting Bill C-68 as it discriminates against them with an ineffective, time consuming registration process.

In continuing with the theme of Liberal legislation that led to harsh realty, last week there was the occurrence of an absolute tragedy at the OC Transpo depot in Ottawa. The fact is that the Liberal's Bill C-68 would not have prevented a person like Pierre Lebrun from buying the gun used to facilitate his horrific killing spree.

This is what happens when dealing with a government that has no ideology or focus. It was popular and thus politically safe to implement legislation like Bill C-68. The Liberals must have felt that discriminating against law-abiding groups of gun owners would be a necessary evil but well worth it when compared to the support they would gain through an emotional subject like gun control.

However, in the Liberals' push for popularity they neglected to deal with the real issue at hand. If the Liberals—and in the case of Bill C-484, the Reform Party—would focus their efforts on the root causes of crime, we would not need Bill C-484, which will only bring more negative propaganda against gun owners.

We need to remember that the gun itself does not commit the crime. Therefore, we need to focus on stopping the real causes of crime, such as unemployment, poverty and the lack of protection from non-rehabilitated offenders who are released too soon due to concurrent sentencing and prison release quotas.

However, these problems are not as easily dealt with. Thus, we will not see the Liberals or the Reform Party delve into these issues and risk their popularity.

The second caution which our party would like to make has to do with the idea of amending the Criminal Code. Amending the Criminal Code can be a dangerous practice as it involves some of our society's most fundamental beliefs. Although these beliefs relate specifically to the manner in which our society disciplines itself, they also overlap into other areas, such as the charter of rights and freedoms.

Thus, if society was allowed to make amendments every time the Criminal Code fell afoul of popular opinion, we would make changes in haste that could adversely affect significant portions of society, and because such changes would be made in response to popular public opinion, it would leave minority groups unprotected from the tyranny of the majority.

We need to have faith in our judicial system which allows our judges to interpret the Criminal Code as it relates to an individual case. Although the system is not perfect, it allows for thoughtful, non-partisan decisions to be rendered and it allows for appeals of the process to be heard.